Monday, September 27, 2010
Free Dental Clinic Will Be Oct. 15-16
By Matt Andazola
Journal Staff Writer
Dr. Larry B. Lubar doesn't mince words:
"If you have any regard for your health, any regard for your quality of life, then it makes sense to get your oral health problems taken care of," says the Albuquerque dentist and chairman of the New Mexico Mission of Mercy event.
The event, a free dental clinic scheduled for Oct. 15-16 at Expo New Mexico, was organized by the New Mexico Dental Foundation and aims to serve children and adults who don't have the money for dental care or who don't have a regular dentist.
The clinic will offer basic treatment, including cleanings, fillings, root canals, extractions, temporary partial dentures and prefabricated crowns, on a first-come, first-served basis, says program coordinator Karen L. Knauf.
Lubar says fixing dental problems benefits overall health; growing research links poor oral health to issues like premature or underweight babies, heart disease and diabetes.
Fixing problems also improves quality of life, he says, not least by increasing confidence and ending pain from toothaches that can distract from work. "It's awfully hard to concentrate on anything in that kind of pain," Lubar says.
Clinic patients will first be medically evaluated, Knauf says, to see if they can undergo the procedures. No one will be asked to provide information about employment, residency or citizenship.
Patients proceed to dental triage, after which dentists and hygienists will perform procedures to fix each patient's most pressing problem. Patients with more than one problem may return the second day, but there is no guarantee of being seen.
Professionals from around the state, as well as some from Colorado, Kansas and California, will volunteer for the event, Knauf says.
Based on other state's experiences — New Mexico is the 15th state to hold a Mission of Mercy clinic — Lubar expects patients may begin lining up for the event two days early. All told, Knauf says the clinic will treat 1,600 to 2,000 patients.
"There is this incredible need, especially in light of what happened to the economy," Lubar says.
New Mexicans face obstacles to dental care, he says. One is poverty; Lubar notes that even people who work full-time jobs may not be able to afford good dentistry.
Another is the distribution of dentists. While other areas face a shortage of dentists, New Mexico's limitations stem from its vast, rural geography.
Lubar says the clinic will call attention to the charitable works of dentists, many of whom treat disadvantaged patients in their own practices. "These are really good-hearted people who care," he says.
Another purpose of the clinic is to catch the ears of legislators and other public officials. The biggest target on Lubar's public agenda is persuading the state to change Medicaid fee schedules and make dental care more available to Medicaid patients.
If you go
WHAT: New Mexico Mission of Mercy free dental clinic
WHEN: 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 15-16
WHERE: Expo New Mexico, Manuel Lujan building
HOW MUCH: Free clinic and parking. First-come, first-served. For information or to make a contribution, visit www.nmdentalfoundation.org. Patients also may call 1-888-600-5458.